Archive for August, 2015

12: In Between Two Worlds

Thursday, August 27th, 2015

Dear Rollie,

My sweet baby

Baby, you are 12 today. I don’t even know how we got here. It seems like I was just at Northside yesterday, waiting with your Daddy, watching Mash reruns (Suicide is Painless is forever ingrained in my memory now as a reminder of my labor with you), for your arrival. I love you and your sister equally, but by the time she came around, I was used to being a mother; But you, baby, turned my world inside out and changed me forever, more than anyone else has in my entire life.

I used to write about you every year around your birthday. I did it for Tiller, too. But somewhere along the way, I got down to the business of living, and I didn’t have as much time for writing. You don’t take naps anymore, unless you are sick, and nap time is when I would write.

Twelve is a birthday that needs to be written about. Twelve makes you seem so different, so in-between-two-worlds. In so many ways, you are still the same little boy you were when I wrote about you six years ago. When I wrote that, Lauren Shankman was pregnant with Jake. You were just starting Kindergarten. Six years from now, you will be starting your Senior year of high school. I cannot wrap my head around that.

My little boy is still there sometimes. You still need and want hugs. Sometimes when we walk together, you still take my hand. You will still sometimes come to me on the couch and sit with my arm around you and put your sweet head on my chest. Oh, your head. And that hair. You are almost a teenager, and the hair is starting to show it, as smelly and greasy as a pork chop like Scully the Cat’s. Your hair is crazy, and reminds me of mine and Grandpa Palmer’s. The more it grows out, the crazier it gets. I love it when it sticks up.

You have grown so much in the last year. You are all gargantuan feet and when I hug you, your head comes up right under my chin where I can rest my chin on top of your head. I would not be surprised if you outgrow me this year. You and Tiller will one day be taller than me, and it cracks me up that I am going to be the runt of the family in a couple years’ time. How could you not grow, when you are eating so much? I never know anymore how much to make, or how much pizza to order. You could easily eat a pizza by yourself some days.

This year is the year that the lakehouse is being sold. I am thinking a lot of it, and will probably write about that, too, but please know that while my memories of childhood there are so very important to me, that my memories of time spent with you and Tiller there are more precious than you can imagine. I still remember you falling asleep on the boat, so small that the lifejacket almost swallowed you. I worried so much about making sure you have sunscreen on at all times. Now you put on your own sunscreen. I let you drive up and down the driveway there, and the feeling of sitting in the passenger sit beside you, your feet able to touch the pedals, and you in complete control, is one of the most surreal feelings I have ever had. We’ll work on your braking skills.  I remember taking you for your first ride on the jetski – you were so scared and wanted me to slow down. In the last couple of years, when we ride together, you do the driving. You are careful and attentive, and the moments that we spent together riding around the lake, stopping at A-frame village to jump in and get wet, and going to Bulldog, and Goat Island, looking at osprey nests in the power lines, and the Marina. . . .those I think are moments i will think about when I am on my deathbed.

This is the year that you learned to cook grilled cheese and soup on your own. We have started leaving you home alone. You get yourself off to the bus on your own now, when Daddy and I have to leave early. We worried that you would have trouble with missing the bus, but you have been so responsible about getting there on time. And you ride the bus home and come in and stay with your sister until i get home. You also started playing Ultimate Frisbee, and meeting friends at Panera on Tuesday mornings, and you are still playing trumpet.

Last night at dinner, you told me that saw your first fight at school. And this is the year that you started middle school (6th grade!) and when i asked if you were nervous, you admitted that what scared you was the thought of going to a school dance. I told you I would dance with you beforehand, and I was pleasantly surprised that you seemed to find comfort in that, and I hope you will take me up on it. Thank you for still sharing some of your secrets with me, about crushes and girls; Your secrets are forever safe with me.

This was the first summer that you were allowed to go to the pool by yourself. The thought of that amazes me, when I think of all the hours I spent holding you in the pool, watching you like a hawk. You ride your bike there all by yourself, and sometimes you ride your bike to friends’ houses. I barely worry. That amazes me. You go away for a week at camp without me and I know you are having fun and don’t even miss us. That makes me happy and sad and proud, all at the same time.

People tell me all the time what excellent manners you have, and how kind and patient you are with little kids, and that you take the time to say hello to adults you know. That makes me proud too. It is an accomplishment for us that you can behave when we are not there to make you. Now if we could just tone down the eye-rolling, sighing, and angry outbursts at home, that would be great. I don’t have a lot of hope for that, though, as I was 12 once, too. I know it is natural, no matter how infuriating it is sometimes. I know I love you anyway, even when I would very much like to slap you silly. I love you even though you are messy, and forgetful, and your room stinks no matter what we do to it. I love you even though you take so many long showers that we often have no hot water. Never forget that I love you no matter what.

Being 12 is hard. You are still a little boy, and almost a teenager. Your body is changing, you think too much (wonder where you got that from), and a new school and new social situations are scary. You are going to change so much in the next year, and I try to hold on to the little things that you do that say “little boy,” but what i mostly see is handsome, smart, funny, charming, mercurial young man. Bear with me when i ask about your day, or school, or homework.  Bear with me if I still need hugs, or sometimes need you to hold my hand, or I want to kiss you on top of the head at bedtime.

I look forward to seeing you become a teenager in the next year, but it is terrifying at the same time. A natural progression, but really, really daunting. Kind of like that roller coaster scene in the movie Parenthood. . . Good thing you and I both love roller coasters.

Love,

Mama

 

 

 

My buddy.

Monday, August 17th, 2015

My buddy.

Peanut butter jars were much cooler back in the day.

Saturday, August 15th, 2015

Peanut butter jars were much cooler back in the day.

Home cooked! (Yeah. It's that kind of week.)

Tuesday, August 11th, 2015

Home cooked! (Yeah. It's that kind of week.)

Who does this belong to?

Thursday, August 6th, 2015

Who does this belong to?

Dinner with mama.

Tuesday, August 4th, 2015

Dinner with mama.

Mama! I love my basket.

Sunday, August 2nd, 2015

Mama! I love my basket.

You Seem So Happy on Facebook

Sunday, August 2nd, 2015

This post has been bubbling up for a while, and it’s not anything that hasn’t been said before. This is a post about perception and image. It’s about the face we put on for the world, and about the assumptions we make about others’ lives based on the face they choose to put on every day.

I talked to my close friend Camille for hours the other day. She is one of those prized and dear friends that knows me in and out, and whom I can go without talking to for months and then call and pick up as if we never skipped a beat. We have talked about it all over the years – boys, music, dreams, addiction, sexuality, marriage, fertility, friendship, siblings, parental relationships, and death. She has been through her rough spots, and I have been through mine. She’s currently in a great place. If you read my blog in the past year, you will know that I am in a rough spot that feels like being caught in the trough of a wave; I occasionally see over the horizon of the cresting wave, but mostly i feel like I am stranded in the trough, trying to get to the top of the wave so that I can see out in all directions. I’m treading water. I have good days and bad days. I have good minutes and bad minutes. I have laughter and tears, and laughter through tears. I’m working on it. I am a work in progress.

When I told Camille that things were okay, but not the best, she seemed genuinely surprised. “Wow. I had no idea things hadn’t gotten better. You seem so happy on Facebook.”

You seem so happy on Facebook.

How many times have you heard someone say that? Or “They seemed so happy.” “Her life seems so perfect.”I bet her house is never messy.”

I have always enjoyed Facebook. I guess I’m addicted. There are things I hate about it, but its strengths outweigh its weaknesses. I use it often to quickly chronicle things my kids do that I just want to put down in writing so i don’t forget. I stay in touch with family. I get to see and stay in touch with people that I never thought I would see again 15 years ago. I reconnected with and stay in touch with childhood friends i haven’t seen since moving in 4th grade, people from high school that i always liked but never would have kept up with otherwise, and college friends who have gone their separate ways, but whom i get to witness doing amazing things and living precious lives right in front of my eyes. Without Facebook, so many of you reading this would only be a sweet or funny memory. You would still be 7 or 17, or 27 years old in my mind’s eye. Instead, you are real people with real lives that continue with time; You grow, you change, you become things that I never imagined you would be. You often wow and amaze me.

I always get a little frustrated with people who hate Facebook because it ends up making them feel bad about themselves. It makes me happy to see old faces, to connect with new friends and learn more about them, and to follow bands and authors and comedians that I like. I don’t look at other people’s lives and think, “Wow. I really need to get my kids into more activities. Mine only play one instrument, know one language, play one sport.” “Wow, look how happy they look. They really have the perfect marriage.” “I wish my skin looked like hers.” “She must work out all the time. I wish I had a personal trainer.” “Why didn’t they invite me to lunch?” “Why didn’t they invite me to that party?” I guess it’s a matter of self-esteem for some. I haven’t had trouble with self-esteem since early high school. One day I just realized comparing myself to others was too exhausting.

There’s more to this, though. Not just the fact that we often compare ourselves to others, but the fact that we assume that the pretty family photo on the beach is that family’s life. Life is not a beach. Life is messy, and full of things that go unsaid. And honestly, we don’t really want to hear all the messy details. We want the pretty.

The perfect meals, pretty front doors, the crafts, and art, and jokes and music. The beautiful, smiling children. The wedding gowns. The couples who look as in love in photos today as they did 20 years ago. So for those who are comparing themselves to others, and thinking they wished their lives looked more like someone else’s, they need to remind themselves of what people don’t say on Facebook. It’s their anniversary. Of course they will wish each other a happy anniversary with a pretty wedding photo of the glowing newlyweds. You don’t not wish your spouse happy birthday, or happy anniversary, or “Congratulations! I am so proud of you for working so hard to get that new job.” You do all those things. We see them all, and we compare ourselves to them, but what are the things that are being left unsaid?

They don’t much talk about how depressed they are, or how confusing their sex life has become to them. Unless they are me. (I kid. Kind of.)

You tell your brother you love him on his birthday. Even if he knew about the treatment you had growing up all those years. Even though he never spoke up about it or acknowledges it now. It’s all there between you, but only the two of you see it.

You smile for the family photo in front of a Christmas tree, even though you know you are leaving your spouse after January 1st. It is just easier to smile. Your sister is smiling, too, even though she knows and it is still a secret. What else can she do? No one wants to ruin Christmas.

You post all those photos about your vegetable garden, or your love of yoga, or how much you ran that morning and what a high you got from those endorphins. None of your Facebook friends know that you absolutely need those endorphins, or the sunshine and dirt, or the deep breathing, just to make it through another day of the emotional desert that your life has become. The running, and flowers, and downward facing dog might be all that person has in the world that gives them joy.

The one who posts nothing but photos of her kids. What you don’t see: She is miserable and hasn’t had sex with her husband in over a year and doesn’t have the financial means, or the will to leave, or doesn’t want to hurt her children.

What an amazing handbag that person just bought. It’s beautiful. What you don’t see: She is $20,000 in debt.

Wow, those two couples seem like the best of friends. What we don’t see: Last night, two of them made out at a party. And not with their spouse.

The friend who travels and works, and lives in that amazing downtown loft with the view and seems to have the most fabulous life. She is lonely. She cries herself to sleep, thinking she will always be alone and never find someone to love, and wonders why she is so defective.

Can’t wait to see the new Marvel movie! What we don’t see. He is just thinking, how do i voice my worry to my depressed girlfriend? I love her and i want her to be happy, and I don’t know how to help her.

The person who cracks the jokes, posts the cat videos. . . what are they hiding? Bulimia, depression, heartbreak, divorce, addiction, that they hate their body, or wish they were dead, or hate their spouse of 50 years and wishes they would just go ahead and die, or the fact that they found out about their spouse’s affair and they’re just keeping it quiet for the sake of the kids, their own affair, the cancer diagnosis, their realization that they are gay, but can’t say it yet, the infertility, the impotence, the fears and guilt about their children, that they cried themselves to sleep because their mother does not remember their name, or the fact that they still haven’t gotten over their mother or father’s or dog’s death. These are real examples of things people have told me. People who confided in me, but who, if you looked at their Facebook profiles, seem pretty happy.  I cannot even begin to imagine the breadth of untold secret pain of so many people who seem so happy on Facebook.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what is being left unsaid. A few people have told me, “I wish you would post more, blog more. I miss your writing.” What a wonderful compliment that is to me. I take it as such, but the truth is, there are often things that I leave unsaid. There are many reasons for omitting the dark, painful, brutal truths. I want to try and be positive. Focus on the good things. Be grateful for the beautiful moments. I don’t want to be a sad downer. As my mama taught me, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” I don’t always take that lesson to heart, but i try sometimes. And so I write less. I post less.

A lot of y’all are probably thinking, “I thought she said everything. She says things that I could never say. I have always admired her brutal honesty and her ability to say the things I think, but don’t have the courage to say.” Writing this down, it sounds arrogant, but it is true, because people tell me this all the time. “Thank you for saying what I wanted to say, but was scared to say.” “I totally agreed with you on xyz, but I would never have said it in public.” What can I say. I have a big mouth, and I value the truth above almost all else.

Almost all else. I also value people’s privacy, their feelings, and my loved ones. There are so many things I don’t say because it might be painful to someone I know or love. Or because to say it would destroy everything. Or would be giving in to the darkness, and giving up. And so there is a framework to social media platforms like Facebook. There are things we really cannot say out loud. Even me.

When people ask me how I’m doing, I say okay. This is not a lie. They sometimes seem surprised that I am not completely fine now. I am better than I was. I am hopeful. I am trying to be more content in the moment, to slow down and enjoy the little things. I am trying to be grateful, and live in the moment. Those little contentments and momentary joys are the face I put on for the world.

But I still have some depression. I am still confused about a lot of things in life. I know that some things will not get better, that many things are a compromise, that so much of it is out of my control, and that the only surety is change. I am anxious about the unknown factors and variables in mine and my family’s life. I sometimes worry myself sick about friends, about my career choices, and about my marriage and family. I often feel like I’ve failed in promises to myself about what I want in life, about the things i planned to do but never did. I doubt my decisions. I wring my hands, don’t sleep, don’t eat, binge eat bowls of shame, drink too much. I keep things inside because I don’t want to cause others pain. I wake up sweating with my heart pounding about things I would never voice on Facebook, or on this blog. And I know I am not alone.

If there’s anything I’ve learned in my 40s, it’s that we are all just children masquerading as adults. We hurt and yearn and cry and wish like children. We have situations that seem insurmountable, endings that are inevitable, situations that make us feel stuck in concrete, and which break our hearts. We never know quite what someone else is going through. We never really know what someone’s childhood was like, or what demons they battle, what road they have walked to get where they are, or what confusing crossroads they are at right this moment. The biggest lesson I have learned so far is that things are not always what they seem. We never know what is going on in someone else’s life, and that maybe it’s best not to judge someone unless we’ve walked their path. Chances are each person is on some journey of his or her own, one that might be slightly more or less difficult, more or less apparent, or just really different than our own.

So, the next time you are thinking, “They seem so happy,” think twice about it. Few of us live perfect lives.

p.s. If you do live a charmed or magical life, please list all your secrets for achieving perfection in the comments. All of them.

 

Update: Just wanted to add a big “Thank you” to all of you who shared my post. I take that as a huge compliment and it really means the world to me.

Tastes like summer.

Sunday, August 2nd, 2015

Tastes like summer.

Unconditional love. (I know. Too many dog photos. But he is such a comfort to me lately.)

Sunday, August 2nd, 2015

Unconditional love. (I know. Too many dog photos. But he is such a comfort to me lately.)